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Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist: Literary Analysis

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The Anti-American Fundamentalist

There are many parallels between the author and the main character of the book “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”, including the fact that they were both born in Lahore, Pakistan, they both continued on to attend Princeton University, and they both gained a lot of knowledge and intimacy with American culture through exclusive involvement. The book exquisitely renders America speechless as the main character Changez expresses his anti-American views through appraisal and accurate but negative perception involving American culture. Changez was, at one point, high up in the ranks of an American business called Underwood Samson. This company determined the worth of certain American businesses; meaning that Changez was not only adept in appraising businesses, but also that he was also proficient in reading people. Pressure rises within Changez’ acquaintance in the café as Changez classifies this man as American by his looks alone. This novel differs from the view of many other novels revolving around the tragedy of 9/11 because it allows no American input, even as it is being abstracted, analyzed, and judged.

One lesson that can be taken from the Novel “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” is that although Muslims and anti-Americanism seem to be parallel, as these characteristics are present within Changez, we as Americans have to realize that Changez does not hate America because he is a Muslim. In actuality, Changez grows to dislike America through personal experience and evaluation, which has nothing to do with his religion. Changez recognizes himself as a “reluctant fundamentalist” because of the fact that there are still some parts of his experiences within America that he keeps near and dear to his heart. Along with Changez’ reluctance comes the negative criticism beginning with Changez’s contemptuous judgment of his Princeton schooling. He explains how in the beginning, Princeton made it seem as if he was very valued as an individual, when in reality, Princeton’s goal was to pump out students who would use their learned talents to better America as a whole. Changez’ problems with American cultural indifference soon become relevant when he travelled with students from Princeton to Greece. He noticed the sense of entitlement the Americans had as they treated Greek elders with disrespect and requesting that things be the way they wanted it. Changez’ turmoil while examining Pakistan vs. America became admissible when he tells the silent American in anger that his people, 4,000 years ago, had civilization completely figured out, and that they had mastered the art of building up a city, while the forefathers of those who would conquer America were unintelligent and barbaric. His anger rises as he explains how nowadays, America is known as “the most technologically advanced civilization our species had ever known” while Pakistan has now been put on the backburner. After falling for a girl named Erica (who symbolizes America, hence her name), he meets her parents and discovers the pertinent patronization that Americans tend to have. Erica’s father completely disrespects Changez’ culture by condescendingly listing each and every problem that Pakistan currently faces. Changez shamed himself by acting American, and felt the need to do so because of American privilege. “I attempted to act and speak, as much as my dignity would permit, more like an American. The Filipinos we worked with seemed to look up to my American colleagues, accepting them almost instinctively as members of the officer class of global business – and I wanted my share of that respect as well. So I learned to tell executives my father’s age, ‘I need it now’; I learned to cut to the front of lines with an extraterritorial smile; and I learned to answer, when asked where I was from, that I was from New York. Did these things trouble me, you ask? Certainly, sir; I was often ashamed. But outwardly I gave no sign of this” (Hamid). Changez’ gratification with the ruin of the twin towers, “I was caught up in the symbolism of it all, the fact that someone had so visibly brought America to her knees” (Hamid). Changez soon finds himself a bit confused as to why half of him yearned to see America wounded, while the other half was appreciative of Erica, an American woman, and his American education. Although this was not the first hint of his anti-Americanism, it was definitely the most relevant, and now Changez begins being treated as a terrorist by readers, but this is not the first time this has occurred. Changez gets double searched at the airport because of his skin color, and many horrible rumors about his race are being thrown around everywhere in America. Soon, Changez begins breaking away from American imperialism and on his returning flight to New York, he recognizes that “it was right for me to refuse to participate any longer in facilitating this project of domination; the only surprise was that I had required so much time to arrive at my decision” (Hamid). Eventually, Changez seizes an opportunity to progressively advocate for anti-Americanism by becoming a professor at a university and encouraging the students “to advocate a disengagement from your country by mine” (Hamid), and accepts no responsibility when one of his students is found supposedly trying to assassinate an American correspondent.

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All in all, the purpose of this book is not about the reader settling with this particular examination of America or not, but that anti-Americanism does occur, and that assorted pivotal aspects definitely outline such viewpoints. Distinctly, this book shows that it is essential to ward off stereotypes that childishly infer that the Islamic religion is the cause of anti-Americanism. This novel strips away all ties with religion when it comes to Changez moving to America and fostering distaste towards America, showing that this hatred cannot possibly come from religion alone.

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